WAPAKONETA — The All Abilities Playground could have been one of those great projects in Lima lore that was scrapped for being the right idea at the wrong time.
An international pandemic stalling fundraising at 40% of its goal would’ve been a perfectly good excuse. Fortunately, Greg Bukowski, of Wapakoneta, believes in following things through to their end.
“It looked like it would be a very long-term project, so I knew we had to raise the money somehow,” Bukowski said. “The Kiwanis gave me the opportunity to get involved.”
It was more like Bukowski willed the fundraising into happening, Brad Perrott, the executive director of The ARC of Allen County, wrote in his nomination letter for Bukowski to receive a Jefferson Award.
“At that point, we were less than 40% of our goal and feeling like it was going to be an impossible dream,” Perrott wrote. “Greg never wavered and set out ideas to raise money in the new frontier we were facing.”
Bukowski is one of the 12 local Jefferson Awards winners, and he’s one of the four youth winners. For the win, each received money to donate to a favorite cause. The Lima News will profile each of them between now and the streaming awards show the night of Thursday, April 22.
Bukowski, the retired treasurer at Apollo Career Center, was full of good ideas and willing to make them work. He helped make donation boxes that were left at businesses that remained open, dropping them off and picking up the money inside occasionally. He helped spearhead a pair of chicken barbecue dinners. He picked up the candy for a candy sale, going to 25 local businesses that sold it as a fundraiser.
He even sold advertising on placemats at Western Sizzlin’ to help raise the money for the project, generating $4,536 with more than 200 hours of effort, according to a nomination by Esther Baldridge.
On top of that, he used his knowledge of Apollo Career Center’s students to help reduce costs on the project, with youth helping prepare and build a new sidewalk leading to the playground.
“Greg’s can-do attitude, willingness to try new things and never giving up hope even in the most bleak circumstances was infectious to our committee and agency as a whole,” Perrott wrote.
In October, the first All Ability Playground was dedicated at Camp Robin Rogers, near Spencerville. A second playground should open later this year at the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities, adjacent to Ottawa Metro Park.
“He showed initiative and was willing to join in what seemed like an insurmountable task three years ago,” Board of DD Superintendent Theresa Schnipke wrote in a nomination letter, “but he has been instrumental in helping raise funds for not one but two fully inclusive playgrounds in our community.”
Bukowski said he enjoys helping out in whatever way he can.
“I was always kind of hands-on,” he said. “I’d get an idea and want to do the follow-through. I didn’t want to put too much on anyone else.”
He’s also involved in “Let’s Back the Blue” in Wapakoneta, an effort to support law enforcement in Auglaize County. He’s treasurer of that organization, which gives grants to local agencies to purchase equipment.
He’s also active with his church, Shawnee Alliance. He’s been to Burkina Faso in western Africa twice to help drill wells there.
“It’s kind of gratifying to work with people to get things done and to help,” Bukowski said.